The bustling city represents the locale of headquarters and flagship establishments for many of the world’s largest companies. It’s a logistical and economic artery, with railways and shipping channels. NASA is right around the corner, and it is an epicenter of the energy and oil industries.
But Houston also has a huge, sprawling populace with residential suburbs peppering the entire landscape. In most cities, especially larger ones, the commercial and residential sectors are somewhat segregated by zoning. But Houston has a quirky exception to this convention – No zoning laws.
The absence of zoning code means that there are no city-wide rules that regulate the use of land or the placement of business and residential establishments with respect to each other throughout the city. Your home could be right next to a business park. In some cases, a home can also be a business itself.
While there is no actual zoning code placing restrictions on building and land use, most property deeds contain contractual obligations that act in a similar fashion as zoning laws would. The difference is that the land owner and developers usually govern them.
As for whether or not this unusual absence of zoning laws in Houston is positive or negative, we have to look at it from a few different perspectives: Commerce, Residents and Prosperity.
In terms of commerce, Houston’s zoning laws grants a bit more flexibility to where a business can set up shop. Unlike other cities with zoning codes, it’s easier for a business to find a good location without such restrictions. Investors, however, sometimes find the lack of zoning somewhat tricky.
In suburban markets, real estate investors are apprehensive about working through the unusual zoning situation. Values and returns might be tough to feel confident about if a subdivision ends up sitting next to an airport. But residential developers have created a method to give investors peace of mind by building deed restrictions and land use covenants into the properties.
The one obvious drawback for residents living in a big city like Houston and having no zoning laws is the potential misfortune of a home right next to an industrial complex. But that occurrence is very rare. On the other hand, residents who wish to run a business out of their own homes might find it easier to accomplish that compared to a city with zoning codes.
Another benefit for residents is the convenience of easier commutes to work and the nearby locations of businesses and services. A worker in Houston could have a potentially long commute given the sheer sprawling size of the city. But because they have more options to choose from when selecting a home close to their workplace, residents can enjoy very short commutes.
Even with all the varying opinions of both residents and commercial enterprises alike regarding the advantages and disadvantages of having no zoning laws, the real proof can be gleaned from the historical prosperity of the city.
Throughout the years, despite an absence of zoning laws, Houston has seen great prosperity. Whether you look at the continued population growth, or the influx of tourism and fresh investors and entrepreneurs, or perhaps the strong economic stability and growth in Houston; all of the signs point to a successful city. And it didn’t need zoning laws to get there!
Austin Faux works for We Buy Ugly Houses Houston. When not dealing in real estate Austin loves helping his wife relax, playing with is kids, and taking the family to the park.